Brain cells grown into clumps in flasks are totally stressed-out and confused. Cells in these clumps have ambiguous identities and make more stress molecules than cells taken directly from human brains, researchers reported October 22 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
These cellular clumps are grown using stem cells made from skin or blood, which under the right conditions can be coaxed into forming three-dimensional clusters of brain cells. These clusters, a type of organoid, are thought to re-create some aspects of early human brain development, a period that is otherwise difficult to study.
The new results highlight underappreciated differences between these organoids and the human brains they are designed to mimic. “Most of the papers out there are extolling the virtues of these things,” says study coauthor Arnold Kriegstein, a developmental neurobiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. But the new study reveals “significant issues that nobody has addressed yet.”
[Neuroscientist Michael] Nestor says that with refinements, organoids grown in lab dishes can better approximate certain aspects of brain development. “There may be some mix of small molecules or media or temperature regulation that will get you there,” he says.
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